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Top Gear the Worst Car Show on Television

Want to know the worst car show on television tonight, Jan. 2, 2012? Nope, it's not Top Gear USA (which seems to have disappeared from broadcast as far as my DVR can tell.) Nor is it the lazily named Car Show on SpeedTV.

Right now the worst car show on television is Top Gear. Yes, I'm referring to the BBC 2 version. It's horrible. It's almost painful to watch how bad Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. They managed to make the BMW 5 series, Ford GT, and Porsche 911 uninspired and a bit with The Stig hurtling off the HMS Invincible was just dumb.

Of course I'm not talking about the current season of Top Gear, widely available via peer-to-peer file sharing. I'm talking about the second season (ed.note it was actually the third season or series as it is called in Britain). The one show I watched was so bad I deleted the second episode without watching it (well somewhat accidentally).

As I sat and watched this nightmare of an episode all I could think was, "Top Gear USA was never this bad." Clarkson came off as a rich snob casually talking about spending $200,000 to buy a car. The jokes fell flat with the in-studio audience.

You know the most surprising thing? James May (aka Captain Slow) was the most polished of the lot. Richard Hammond (the Hamster) was almost squeaky in his exuberance. Fortunately his presentation has matured and his voice has deepened to be the polished performer he is today.

The star in the reasonably priced car, a British actor/singer named Martin Kemp, was almost fawned over by Clarkson. The man was an insufferable boor who has owned lots of Porsches and other cars he can't be bothered to remember the names of. Clarkson in 2009 would have slayed him and instead just kissed up. It was painful. It reminded me of Buzz Aldrin's appearance on Top Gear USA.

There was a discernible lack of chemistry among the three hosts. Richard and James seemed the most comfortable and Clarkson kind of like the outsider. He seemed almost tolerated by his castmates. The banter was dry or painful (don't get me started on the golden cock). Interaction with the studio audience was not the inspired back and forth it is today.

The whole story with The Stig driving off the HMS Invincible was probably not totally pointless. If memory serves me correctly (and I probably should have checked Wikipedia), I think the Black Stig was probably replaced with the first White Stig after this episode in the second season (ed. note - again, it appears to be a third season episode).

The worst part of this "Lost Season" as BBC America is billing it? (It should have stayed lost.) The camera work that has grown to become brilliant was lackluster and the editing was bad, too. I think at one point the camera lens for the Ford GT segment shot in Detroit was even dirty. I was just aghast.

So, the next time some self-important critic deigns to criticize Top Gear USA or The Car Show (which I have never seen because I don't get Speed TV), I can now say with confidence that Top Gear in the second season of the reincarnated version was horrible. I'm glad the show prospered in spite of itself and became the gem it is.

Even though there has been a nattering of criticism lately, by the show's own producer, that the three hosts are becoming caricatures of themselves. Well, even so, it had a few great seasons (say Series 4 to 15) that were just brilliant.

Anybody know when Top Gear USA returns? Unlike other self-important critics, I kind of miss it.


TopGear4Life (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 2:40AM

Listen, the American top gear is not good, they aren't funny what so ever because they are stupid uneducated. Top Gear is one of the funniest shows on television certainly more funny then any other American program.

Keith Griffin    January 3, 2012 - 9:16AM

In reply to by TopGear4Life (not verified)

Series 2 sure wasn't. And I disagree. American Top Gear is good. It's not great. It's not one-half the show Top Gear is but it's still good. It's actually using some advance broadcast techniques that are good. I hate Tanner Foust but respect his talents. Rutledge Wood is knowledgeable and Adam Ferrara is simply not a car guy but he's a good foil to Tanner. It's a good show - better than Series 2 of Top Gear. Give it time to grow (as long as History TV execs don't meddle too much)

Keith Griffin    January 3, 2012 - 9:06AM

In reply to by India786 (not verified)

India786 you missed the point. What I was saying is Top Gear in its second season (as the new Top Gear) was painfully bad. I love Top Gear and record every episode on BBC America. However, I think I'm going to automatically delete 2003 episodes. It blossomed into a great show. I think people need to give the American version and The Car Show time, too. Sure, I'm a dumbass but I'm not a hater.

Anonymous (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 4:15AM

you're basing this opinion on series 2 when they are on their 18th series? are you just trying to troll people or what? if you are a published journalist, i can't believe you are. you're just dumb.

Keith Griffin    January 3, 2012 - 9:13AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

My opinion is Series 2 is worse than anything Top Gear USA has done (at least the episode I saw). Giving a show a chance to grow like BBC 2 did with the current version of Top Gear produced an absolute gem. Hell, I love the show. I read Richard Hammond's book. Have you? It's a great show. Just read my post again to get my point.

Anonymous (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 8:28AM

I disagree with nearly every aspect of this article. Top Gear 2012 would do well to resurrect some of the newness that came with these early seasons-- longer SiaRPC segments, interesting trivia items such as the car remote/head thing, less video polish and cuts that are more than a second long.

The current iteration is, unfortunately, TOO polished and TOO formulaic, and far too predictable. Used car challenges always feature sieve-like shots under the engines and parts falling off the cars; shop challenges always have Clarkson looking for a hammer and something being set on fire; Hammond and Clarkson are always "losing their brakes" when it presents an opportunity to crash into May; the Cool Wall has always been a waste of time.

As much as I enjoy the BBCs Top Gear, I find the old episodes far more re-watchable than the new ones.

Anonymous (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 9:42AM

This has gone way too far. So you're saying Jeremy Clarkson has insulted people. What you have said is in insult to him. HYPOCRITE!

Top gear is my favorite tv show. I am british and hardly managed to watch a minute of top gear usa. they make no jokes which is why i cannot see why people enjoy it more than top gear. You cant just say it's 'the worst car show on television'. Top gear usa is... just face it.

Keith Griffin    January 3, 2012 - 9:48AM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Discerning British friend,
I went back and read my piece and don't think I said Clarkson insulted anybody. In fact, I said the opposite. I like when he insults people. He was fawning, which means not insulting. And, I was referring to the second series of Top Gear, which was horrible. Did you miss this line: "I'm glad the show prospered in spite of itself and became the gem it is." I LIKE TOP GEAR. It just needed time to grow and so do its American counterparts.

WyldWyll (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 11:12AM

Hey Kevin, strange it's the most popular TV show on the planet right now eh? and what are you? d'Oh! That's because we know a good joke, too bad your ignorant opinion only deserves pity. Pull the stick out!

Keith Griffin    January 3, 2012 - 11:17AM

In reply to by WyldWyll (not verified)

Can nobody read? It's the most popular TV show on the planet right now. I agree. But it was a horrible show in its second season and I stand by that, which is why I say good shows need time to grow. My opinion is not ignorant because I took the time to base my opinion on watching the episode and not just scanning a headline. Please don't quote Homer Simpson. He's an icon. And, what does pull the stick out mean?

Brian (not verified)    January 3, 2012 - 1:00PM

Shockingly accuracte review of last nights show. I was thinking throughout the show that it reminded me of Top Gear USA s' first few episodes. This show last night was so bad it gives me hope that TG USA may have a future!

Alexander Edwa… (not verified)    January 4, 2012 - 7:49AM

Basically Keith Griffin. Nearly 350 million people watch Top Gear including me. So to be honest nobody really cares what you say. Top Gear is the best car show ever. It's informative aswell as comical. Hell, I bet you even complained when Jeremy Clarkson said that everyone in India gets the trots. The fact of the matter is, is that everyone DOES. So thanks for the input but your talking total crap. Thanks!

RaphEmer (not verified)    January 4, 2012 - 12:23PM

Ok, first one comment - the episode you're referring to, with Martin Kemp and Jeremy in Detroit and the end of Black Stig was actually the first episode of Series 3. It wasn't Series 2.

And if you want to see stiff performances, you should watch Series 1, with Jason Dawe (who James May replaced).

I will agree with you, though, the earliest seasons are a little 'off''s obvious that everyone involved is still trying to get the hang of what works (but there were still some really good moments in those episodes). Don't know if I'd call it the worst car show but you are entitled to your opinion.

Keith Griffin    January 4, 2012 - 12:40PM

In reply to by RaphEmer (not verified)

Thanks for the correction - I misinterpreted the description from BBC America, which just referred to it as a 2003 episode. It's corrected in the article.
And, what some folks are missing in their comments, is it was the worst show on television that night. I've never seen Fifth Gear, which Clarkson refers to in this episode, but what I was saying is it was the worst show on TV that night. Thanks for your reasoned and informative reply.

Killer (not verified)    January 4, 2012 - 4:43PM

Nice of you to base your opinion on one episode in a single season... not to mention an original. Top Gear USA is embarrassing these cars just are not remotely funny. Clarkson, May, and Hammond are funny because it seems to be their natural characters and the jokes just flow. Who are you to write something about a whole season while only watching one episode, you deserve your criticism.

Sean (not verified)    January 4, 2012 - 5:54PM

In reply to by Killer (not verified)

I'm just wondering if anybody can read. I have seen Top Gear, but only some of the later shows, and loved it, very funny. I never saw the earlier shows, so I'm not really sure what you're talking about, but if it was just the one episode of the whole season that really sucked, well thats not too bad, they were probably still trying to figure out what worked and what didn't and went from there and still going 9 years later.

As far as Fifth Gear goes, which is the opposition to Top Gear and also a British show, is pretty weak. Gives me the impression of being a touchy feely sort of a show and not the hard out balls and all type that Top Gear is.

Oh well "Quality takes time".

Chazfazzer (not verified)    January 8, 2012 - 12:45PM

In reply to by Sean (not verified)

The comments on here are quite amusing, since noone has really addressed the point you made - namely that the early episodes of the British Top Gear were very weak. While I can't be bothered to go back and rewatch the episode you mentioned, I will admit that you're probably right; the fact that those early episodes are very rarely seen on Dave (a British channel where they regularly repeat episodes of Top Gear) indicates that they maybe aren't worth watching again. However, I think the newest episodes must be at least as awful. The jokes have become stale, the 'banter' predictable, and the challenges far too contrived. The recent India christmas special was, frankly, embarrassing, as it just involved the presenters basically p*ssing off the locals and going through the same old tired routines. This decline is to be expected, as it has happened to virtually every TV show out there. You can't make 18 seasons of a show about cars and not repeat yourself, and I'm pretty amazed that they've managed to stretch it as far as they have. I think it's time for Top Gear to be led outside and kindly put out of its misery with a double-barreled.

Anonymous (not verified)    March 22, 2012 - 4:42PM

In reply to by Chazfazzer (not verified)

That's true, however why are we arguing about stuff from at the very least 9 years ago. I mean that's like saying the Simpsons season 10 was bad (just an example, I don't watch the Simpsons). Yes, the show is going to decline to a certain extent but it should and will likely be slower. Despite the fact that they have to come up with new stuff every week. This isn't a plot they are imagining with a twist and an underlying background story. They just need to reinvigorate the show. I mean it's a car show. The subject is the machines and they make new ones every year. It shouldn't be that hard. And series 18 is really like series 9 because as many who know the show would realize, they split it up into two smaller series throughout the year. To address Top Gear USA: I find it quite contrived and fairly derivative from what I've seen. On the last preview for the show, they guys made limos and drove celebrities to various destinations which was on Top Gear UK a few years back. This is likely going to happen, but have they already run out of idea on US version? Also they are missing the major factor that makes the Top Gear hosts good - they are/were well known before the show was a big deal. Even if one of the presenters on TG:USA was famous it would make the show more watchable. And I know the one guy is a Le Mans driver or something, but who cares. Do many people know those guys? No.

DivineNoob (not verified)    January 10, 2014 - 12:56PM

I read your article, and at first I was a bit angry that you said Top Gear (BBC) was the worst show on the planet. Then I noticed that you were referring to the third season, so I went online to watch it (never actually watched the older seasons), and I find myself agreeing with you. That particular season was pretty bad compared to the later seasons. I never knew Top Gear was actually, no offense meant, garbage at one point. But I'm not gonna dwell on it, because then again, it was only on its third season; it needed some time to grow into the show that we know and love today. I love the Top Gear of today, and hopefully, I always will in the near future.

J.G (not verified)    August 20, 2014 - 4:50PM

Hard to believe we even saved them from total annihilation. They did fight hard but were sorry folks on the battlefied. They are even worse on tv.